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Driver falls asleep on railroad tracks, car cut in half

January 20, 2011 | 11:16 am

A Pacoima motorist who fell asleep behind the wheel while stopped on railroad tracks Thursday survived after a Union Pacific cargo train struck and severed his vehicle in half.

The collision occurred at 1:15 a.m. at the train track crossing on San Fernando Road and Branford Street in Pacoima.

The driver, an elderly man, walked away without any injuries and was arrested on site on suspicion of drunk driving, said Sgt. Dave Mascarenas of the Los Angeles Police Department Valley Traffic division.

The man drove his Hyundai Sonata past the caution arm of the train tracks and a 59-car train struck the front of the car, ripping it in half and causing the rear half with the driver inside to spin 180 degrees, Mascarenas said.

The force of the accident caused the tracks underneath the train to bend and buckle all the way to its destination in Sylmar, he said.

“Because of the percussion, it caused a wave of force to be generated and as the train moved, it bent the tracks,” Mascarenas said.

Without the shovel-like plow at the front of the train, the outcome could have been much worse, authorities said.

“It was designed to mitigate damage and it worked,” Mascarenas said. “It cut the car in half but saved his life.”


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-- Nate Jackson